Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Modern Aesthetic Permeates Everything...

The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers:

What fascinates me about this video is that they have chosen classical music and given it a modern aesthetic through their use of space and division of choreography.

By "modern aesthetic" I mean they've executed a number of ideas that were originated - and are used endlessly - by contemporary/modern/postmodern dancers.

1) The music is loosely followed, meaning, the rhythm doesn't dictate the entire choreography.
2) The random interspersing of break off points for dancers from the rest of the group, is another common trait, occurring at 1:52.
3) They used heavily another common choreography bit where several distinct movements are going on at once, with random start and end points so the stage is full of a variety of motion.
4) The random walking or "street walking", as I like to dub it, occurs at 2:04, something I've seen in just about every dance show I've been to at some point or another, most notably as far back as Jerome Robbins in his "Glass" or "Water" piece. (I wish I could remember. Maybe the composer was Philip Glass? I'll repost this later when I've figured it out).

This is not to say it's not an amazing or creative video, (I've watched it 10 times already in the past half hour) but a probe into why this happened like this - I've noticed it in classical Indian dance choreography as well. For instance, Anuradha Nehru's group choreography also exhibits these structures. Yet, Bollywood doesn't do this, nor does Korean dance, or "traditional" ballet, really, so it's not simply that the modern aesthetic is popular or that its a trendy thing to do right now.

I think it's a few things. (We are entering the realm of speculation here) - one being that break dancing, pop and lock, bharatanatyam, etc, started out as solo dance forms. It's only recently within the past 10 years or so that they've really had companies intent on group choreography rather than the solo stuff. The modern aesthetic also started out as solo choreography (Martha Graham, Ruth St. Denis, etc, were solo artists first and foremost as far as I know) so it's only natural that groups developed such an interesting randomized aesthetic. The randomization allows for solo styles to shine through. I also think it has to do with timing - right now, this is the structure of group choreography when watching modern dance - so for hip hop and Indian dance, two styles who are struggling to show they are more than just folk or regional art (as in the case of Indian dance) or are more than entertainment and spectacle (hip hop) using the modern aesthetic is a way of legitimizing themselves and showing they are on the same plane. The ballet music they used, costuming, and theme shown by LXD -- proves this idea even further.

I'd love to see someone research this further. Oh, also, and how Asians became so involved in the break dancing culture.

End speculation.


After mentioning this to one of my professors, Uttara Coorlawala, she further corroborated my observations:

"Yes, it seems to work in a very postmodern way, using the break dance movement.. i.e. the way the moves go thru the music, the inverted bodies close to the floor, the asymmetry of body shapes, the asymmetrical sequencing of movements - yes all these are very postmodern, and modern. In terms of spatial group formations framed by the spectacular lights and flat viewing...

Anuradha's use of diagonals were a lot closer to modern dance, perhaps because of the stage lighting? and rectangualr proscenium space involved??"

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